The Summit San Diego to Hawaii round trip was to be our first ever cruise when we booked about a year ago. However we took cold feet on advice from more experienced cruisers who thought eight sea days for first timers was foolhardy. Therefore in the interim, we took a five day Caribbean cruise on the Century which we loved but thought too short. So this experience made us even more impatient than we might have been for the Summit cruise and, I'm happy to report, we were not at all disappointed. The whole experience was great; in fact we liked the ship so much we booked it for two more trips while on board.
What did we like best? The Normandie specialty restaurant was superb the food enhanced by splendid unpretentious service in a setting with considerable old world charm. We planned two meals in the Normandie and in the end ate there four times. Our Maitre d' contributed significantly to the experience by his charm, attention and after the first evening by throwing the menu away and offering us off menu specials on each visit. The Persian Garden was a daily treat for us with its steam and hot dry chambers, well worth the $99 fee for the entire cruise. Dancing each evening with a choice of two venues and two good bands, Top Notch and Guys and Doll was a pleasure. Other musical entertainment was also excellent, our favorite being the soprano, Jennifer Fair, closely followed by the pianist Walter Wojciechowski and vocalist Chris Riggins. Michael's Piano Club quickly became a favorite aperitif and night cap spot with very pleasant romantic music provided by Keith Turner. The Celebrity Orchestra was very good as was the Odessa String Quartet, who we particularly enjoyed while sipping on a glass of wine in the evenings at the Cova Café. Daily Trivia provided a little bit of mental stimulation and entertainment for us, at its best when hosted by Cruise director Allan King. Allan seemed to be everywhere; in addition to hosting Trivia, he did the daily activities announcements, introduced the shows in the theatre and did an occasional late night cabaret spot then one would meet him all over the ship. For breakfast and lunch we ate light and the Aqua Spa Café provided exactly what we needed with very appetizing light meals served very pleasantly; mostly by the staff from the Normandie. The Cosmopolitan Restaurant where we had late seating dinner all other evenings was very good and our dinner companions were a great group to be with; contributing considerably to the enjoyment of the cruise. This was a group who had never met before but joined up for other activities and went to the Normandie as a group on the last formal evening. The ship is elegant and although it shows signs of wear it is very attractive with excellent facilities, seldom seemed crowded and one could always find a quiet spot to enjoy the ambiance.
There wasn't too much that we didn't like on the Summit, but what we liked least was that it was sometimes difficult to avoid smoking areas, it being so bad in the casino during a slot tournament that I left before the final round! Also the chair hogs booked up the non smoking side of the pool early each day. The spa seminars irritated us with their hard sell of Elimis products.
If you want to tour Hawaii extensively this is probably not the right trip for you as time at each port is pretty limited, so you either have to fill the time completely and efficiently or settle for a snapshot at each location. That said it was just right for us, we were very happy with the snapshots as we found it difficult to drag ourselves away from the amenities and ambience of the ship. At Lahaina, Maui we did the Feast at Lele Luau which was an easy walk from the tender and most enjoyable with a spectacular show and beautiful setting with table service and white linen. The rest of our shore excursions were booked through Celebrity starting on Maui with the Heleakala Crater Tour which was interesting and provided a feel for the island; but which we thought could have benefited by skipping the included lunch and getting back to the ship earlier. On Oahu we did the Little Circle Island Tour which was short and gave us a feel for the place. The tour we enjoyed most was The Valley of the Kings on Hilo with a four wheel drive van trip down into a spectacular unspoiled valley with a driver who was a real character and infectious in his enthusiasm. The outbound and return voyage did provide an idea of the shear vastness of the Pacific Ocean; day after day of seeing nothing but vast expanses of sea and sky. During this time we didn't see another ship, an aircraft or another living thing beyond the ship, however, that being said we didn't spend all our time looking! The weather was very pleasant throughout although cool the first and last days, with calm seas all the way. Our Cruise Critic Roll Call considerably enhanced the trip, it was informative, amusing and got the enthusiasm pumped up in advance so we felt part of a group right from the start. The Roll Call brought a group of us together for a pre cruise dinner in San Diego and a majority of the group got together for a sail away party as we set off. Thus we never went far on the ship without bumping in to someone for a chat or to join up for a refreshment.
Our two cruises have been Concierge Class and we are not convinced it is worth any significant extra money, so next trip we will have a balcony without the free Champagne, canapés fresh flowers etc. and see how it compares.
This was not an all night party cruise, in fact there was little going on after midnight to 1AM most nights. We found ourselves closing restaurant and bars and being last off the dance floor most nights. The average age was higher than we expected with us, in our mid sixties, feeling that that we were among the younger crowd. There was a high percentage of Europeans on board which might have made for more late night action but they also must have been early bedders.
Embarkation in San Diego was quick but it felt a bit muddled and there were a lot of stairs to climb as an alternative to the one elevator. Debarkation was slow, due, we were told, to some passengers with foreign passports not presenting themselves on time to emigration staff. Also bags were not laid out very conveniently for pickup.
All in all we loved the Summit, Celebrity's on board service was excellent and the sea days were the best part of the trip.